Joel Embiid could be moving closer to playing for the 76ers.
Sixers forward Robert Covington said his teammate “looked good” in Friday’s half-court, five-on-five scrimmage. While it wasn’t full court, this marked the first time Embiid went five-on-five in over sixth months.
Embiid played in only 31 games last season before the team announced on March 1 that he would need season-ending knee surgery. His last game was Jan. 27.
“His conditioning isn’t all the way there,” Covington said. “But once he gets his wind and everything, he will be back to the old Joel.”
Also on Friday, Jahlil Okafor was a full participant in practice since the latter part of last season. He missed the last 11 games of the season and 18 total with soreness in his right knee. Meanwhile, reserve guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (right knee patellar tendonitis) participated in a few drills, but not the scrimmages.
But Embiid’s half-court scrimmaging was the headliner of the day.
The 23-year-old hopes to be ready to play against the Washington Wizards in the season-opener on Oct. 18 in D.C. The Sixers did not make him available to speak to the media due to not being a full participant in practice.
The goal Friday was to get Embiid back into the flow of playing with his teammates. The team wanted him and his teammates to get a level of familiarity with each other.
“Right now, … what does he have to get used to? And what’s it like?” coach Brett Brown said. “It’s a whole different thing for his teammates. You have another incredible weapon and target that you have to get the ball to recognize that he is behind you defensively.”
Embiid was playing at an all-star level last season when healthy. He averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, and 2.1 assists this season. Embiid was the Eastern Conference rookie of the month for October/November, December, and January. He was also the conference player of the week for the week of Jan. 16-22.
Brown added it was good to see the franchise player out there with his teammates.
Meanwhile, Okafor felt good to go full bore in practice.
This came after he saw both of his NBA seasons cut short by injuries to his right knee.
Okafor’s knee had been bothering him since he had surgery March 22, 2016, to repair a torn meniscus. The 23-year-old weighs 258 pounds after shedding 20 pounds in the offseason.
As a result, he felt lighter on the court and more comfortable. But most important, Okafor said he doesn’t have any soreness in the knee.
He’s expected to play in Sunday’s “Blue x White” scrimmage at the Palestra. The Sixers are looking to trade the big man.
But his current teammates can’t wait to get him and Embiid back in games.
“It is going to be scary when they are back to full health and playing,” Ben Simmons said. “I am excited for them to get back.”